Illawarra, Shoalhaven and South Coast restauranters and producers are working more closely together than ever to promote local produce and grow the region's dining culture.
The reputation of the restaurant industry south of Sydney has enjoyed a steady and sustained increase over more than a decade for a number of reasons.
They include the Winter Wine Festival run for many years by the Shoalhaven Coast Wine Association.
The training in commercial cookery, hospitality and horticulture being offered in the region by TAFE
And the annual Celebrity Chef dinner at Nowra TAFE campus in Bomaderry where celebrity Sydney chefs work with TAFE students to coordinate and put on an event that provides practical experience.
The students get to work with the best in the business using local products.
And it is made possible with generous support from the business community who also help out with scholarships.
One of the drivers behind the celebrity chef dinners before she retired was Di Laver.
Now she is continuing that by organising an annual Chef and Producers dinner which was attended by 120 people in May.
Mrs Laver knows it is the restauranters' willingness to shop and buy local and work to provide the best quality experience and service to locals and visitors that is helping make it all work.
"There were 74 chefs here last year and we have 78 chefs this year. I think that speaks for itself," she said.
"And it is so great to see so many producers. The whole idea of the evening is for the chefs to break bread with the producers and get to know more about the wonderful produce and the wonderful things that are happening in the region. Having events like this is a really interesting way of doing it".
Ms Laver said that wonderfully positive attitude and commitment to working together and delivering the best possible product for anyone dining south of Sydney is really paying off.
The way local chefs Brent Strong, of Bangalay Dining, Matt Upson, of Tallwood Eatery, and Nick Gardner of Hampdon Deli, Dining and School worked together using regional produce at the second annual Chefs and Producers dinner was a great example of that.
Many regional producers were present to help showcase and celebrate their ability to offer a dining experience matched with local wine that is as good as anything in the world.
Among those involved in supporting the event were Huskisson & Jervis Bay Food Network, Slow Food, Flavours of Shoalhaven, Coolangatta Estate, Bakehouse Delights, Coffee Fix Coffee, Kangaroo Valley Olives, Spotted Gum Farm, Peckish on the Park, Beers are Us, Bow Butter, Tea Journeys, Huskisson Mushrooms, Culburra King Fish - Nowra Fresh, Never Farm Oyster, Shottlanders Wagyu, Pecora, Kangaroo Valley Eggs, Delicious Cakes, Hampton Deli, Stoic Beer, Mountain Ridge Winery, Silos Estate, Two Figs Winery and Cupitts Winery.
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